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VPN Kill Switch Explained

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides an added layer of protection and helps maintain your online privacy / security. However, not all VPNs are created equal – One essential security feature to look for when choosing a VPN is “Kill Switch”. This article will introduce you to the concept of a VPN kill switch, explain how it works, and show you the typical process for enabling a kill switch on a VPN application. 

What is a VPN Kill Switch?

A VPN kill switch is a security feature designed to automatically disconnect you from the Internet if your VPN connection drops unexpectedly. 

When you connect to a VPN, your internet traffic is encrypted and routed through a secure server, masking your IP address and keeping your online activities private. However, VPN connections can sometimes fail due to various reasons.

In such cases, the kill switch comes into play by monitoring your VPN connection and instantly cutting off your internet access if it detects any disruption. This ensures that your real IP address remains hidden even when your VPN connection is compromised; hence protecting your online privacy and preventing data leaks.

Situations Where a VPN Kill Switch Activates

A VPN kill switch is usually triggered in the following situations:

  • Unstable connections: If you are experiencing weak or fluctuating internet signals, your VPN connection may drop temporarily, prompting the kill switch to activate.
  • Server issues: If the VPN server you are connected to is experiencing technical issues or undergoing maintenance, your VPN connection may drop – This may activate the kill switch.
  • Software updates: VPN software updates may require a temporary disconnection from the VPN server, triggering the kill switch.

Use Cases of VPN Kill Switch

A VPN kill switch offers several significant benefits that enhance your online privacy and security. One key advantage is the protection against data leaks. 

With a kill switch in place, you can be confident that your personal information, browsing history, and IP address won't be inadvertently exposed if your VPN connection fails. Such a function is particularly beneficial for those who handle sensitive information or travel frequently or live in countries with strict internet censorship.

A kill switch is also essential for users engaged in torrenting, browsing the Dark Web, or using public Wi-Fi networks. During torrenting or visiting Dark Web websites, a kill switch ensures that your IP address and activities remain private; while on public Wi-Fi networks, it protects your data from being intercepted by hackers when your VPN is compromised. In both situations, the kill switch is crucial for maintaining your security and privacy online.

How to Set Up and Use a VPN Kill Switch

Setting up and using a VPN kill switch is straightforward – even if you are new to VPNs. 

Most VPN providers include the kill switch feature within their app settings. While the exact process may vary slightly depending on the VPN service, the following steps should help you enable the kill switch:

  1. Download and install your chosen VPN provider's app on your device.
  2. Open the VPN app and sign in with your account credentials.
  3. Navigate to the app's settings or preferences menu.
  4. Look for a section related to security, privacy, or connection settings.
  5. Find the kill switch option, which may be labeled as kill switch, network lock, or something similar.
  6. Enable the feature by toggling it on or checking the corresponding box.

Example – ExpressVPN

Setting up Kill Switch at ExpressVPN

Kill Switch (aka. Network Lock) is enabled by default on ExpressVPN. However, if you disabled this feature previously, you can go into the app settings to re-enable it.

  1. In the ExpressVPN app and click on the hamburger menu (three horizontal lines)
  2. Go to “Options”
  3. Under the “General” tab, Find the “Network Lock” section
  4. Check the box “Stop all Internet traffic if the VPN….” 

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Example – SurfShark

Setting up Kill Switch at Surfshark

If you're using Surfshark, here's how you can enable the kill switch feature:

  1. Open the Surfshark VPN app on your device and sign in with your account credentials
  2. Click on the gear icon (Settings) 
  3. Go to “VPN Settings”
  4. In the “Connectivity” tab, you will find the “Kill Switch” option.
  5. Toggle the kill switch on to enable the feature.

Surfshark allows unlimited device connections and costs less than $3/mo – try it for free.

Troubleshooting Common Kill Switch Issues

If you encounter issues while using the kill switch, consider the following troubleshooting tips:

  • Re-enable the kill switch: Sometimes, the kill switch may be disabled accidentally or after a VPN app update. Double-check the VPN app settings to ensure the kill switch is enabled.
  • Check for VPN app updates: Make sure you're using the latest version of the VPN app, as outdated versions may have bugs or compatibility issues affecting the kill switch functionality. Regularly check for updates in your device's app store or on the VPN provider's website.
  • Restart your device and VPN app: Temporary glitches can cause a VPN kill switch to malfunction. Restarting your device and VPN app can help resolve these issues and restore proper functionality.
  • Reinstall the VPN app: If the kill switch still doesn't work, try uninstalling and reinstalling the VPN app. This can help fix any installation issues or corrupted files that may be affecting the kill switch feature.
  • Test your kill switch feature: To ensure your kill switch is functioning correctly, you can perform a test by disconnecting from the VPN server while actively using the internet. If the kill switch is working as intended, your internet access should be cut off immediately.
  • Disable conflicting software: Some security software – such as firewalls or antivirus programs, may conflict with your VPN app. Temporarily disable these programs to see if the issue resolves itself. If it does, consider adding your VPN app to the exception list or adjusting the settings of the conflicting software.
  • Check your device's network settings: In some cases, your device's network settings may be interfering with the kill switch. Verify that your device is set to use the correct network adapter and that no proxies or custom DNS settings are enabled.
  • Try a different VPN server: Occasionally, the issue may be with the VPN server itself. Connect to a different server and see if the kill switch works correctly.
  • Contact customer support: If you've tried all the troubleshooting steps and the kill switch still isn't functioning properly, reach out to your VPN provider's customer support team for further assistance. 

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, a VPN kill switch is an indispensable feature. By instantly cutting you off from the Internet when your VPN connection drops – a kill switch prevents data leaks and protects your personal information from being exposed. When choosing a VPN provider, prioritize this essential feature and familiarize yourself with its setup and use. 

Frequent Ask Questions

What is a VPN kill switch?

A VPN kill switch is a security feature that automatically disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection drops unexpectedly. This helps prevent your IP address and online activities from being exposed, ensuring your privacy and security remain intact even if your VPN connection fails.

Why is a VPN kill switch important?

A VPN kill switch is important because it protects your privacy during unexpected VPN disconnections. Without a kill switch, your device may automatically reconnect to the internet using your regular, unencrypted connection, revealing your true IP address and potentially exposing sensitive data to hackers or surveillance agencies.

How does a VPN kill switch work?

A VPN kill switch works by constantly monitoring your VPN connection status. If it detects a sudden disconnection, it immediately blocks all internet traffic to and from your device. Once your VPN connection is re-established, the kill switch automatically restores your internet access, ensuring that you're always protected while using a VPN.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a service that creates a secure and encrypted connection between your device and the internet. By routing your internet traffic through a remote server, VPNs hide your IP address and location, making it difficult for third parties to monitor your online activities and access your personal information.

Do all VPN services include a kill switch?

Not all VPN services include a kill switch, but it's becoming an increasingly common feature in VPN applications. When selecting a VPN provider, it's essential to check if they offer a kill switch to ensure maximum protection for your privacy and security.

How can I enable kill switch on my VPN?

Enabling a VPN kill switch typically involves accessing the settings or preferences of your VPN application and turning on the kill switch feature. The exact process may vary depending on the VPN provider and software you're using – do check your VPN provider's documentation or contact customer support for specific instructions.

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